In this article I’m going to share with you my personal experiences with applying stressors and restrictions with an end goal in mind. The two specific examples are getting my body ready for a photo shoot and overcoming some limiting beliefs that held me back in my own self-development. I will outline some of the struggles and complexities of the process. Plus before and after photos shown at the end of the article.
For many years I have worked with people to change their diets, lifestyles, mindset and training practices. One of the overriding things that I have noted with people getting successful results working with me, was that they had to endure a certain amount discomfort and stress either mentally or physically. Generally the greater the discomfort, the more dramatic the results were. This is not your “no pain, no gain” slogan but seeing results comes from change and doing things differently to produce different (higher level) results. As Albert Einstein once said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results.” Stepping out and exposing yourself to new imposed demands, will inevitably move you in a different direction; the key is to know how to navigate in the direction of your goals.
I find it inspiring when I see people overcome adversity or personal challenges and I don’t think I’m alone on this one. In the last seven years, I have made it my personal mantra to put myself in situations that create a certain level of discomfort, creating personal growth and development that leads to more life experience and improved knowledge. Seven years ago, I had a high level of dissatisfaction with my career and a lack of self-belief that I was smart (or good) enough to improve. Somewhere along the line, as we all do, I adopted these limiting beliefs that held me back from taking action. If we’re all honest with ourselves, I think in some areas of our lives we all have those little voices in our heads that can stop us from pursuing change, whether it’s in our careers, relationships, finance, health or personal appearance.
My limiting beliefs were around learning and education, which as you can imagine, in the field of health and fitness is going to be a huge roadblock in becoming a better coach and trainer, that seek out for advice and to learn from. Through a high level of internal discomfort, I had no option but to change, otherwise I was going to be miserable and uninspired forever. At my peak of feeling dissatisfied with myself from the lack of progression, I remember reading or hearing the famous quote from Niccolo Machiavelli, “Make mistakes of ambition, not of sloth.” For some reason those very words struck a cord inside me and I thought f#ck it! I’m ready to start making mistakes in the direction of my goals.
From that point on, I started applying the same principles of any type of physical training to learning and professional development. I drew a powerful parallel between physical training and learning. For example – the way the human body improves when it is exposed to a stressor (resistance training or cardiovascular training) then there is a positive reaction (super compensation –See Hulk-strength article for definition) from the stressor whereby the body adapts and improves. Making the link between training and learning, I could now see that reading, writing and learning were my new dumbbells for progression.
Although I have maintained what I would consider a good level of personal health and fitness since an early age, I had never subjected myself to a strict dietary protocol for a set body composition goal. I have always eaten considerably well, mostly clean whole foods with minimal processed foods or added sugars. Advising several of my clients on strict protocols for body-building shows or low level body fat goals, I understood the science and the steps required to get clients to those goals. However, I had not personally experienced the methods that I was prescribing and I knew that if I wanted to fully understand what it felt like, then I would have to take a dose of my own medicine.
At the start of 2016, I sat down and wrote out my goals out for the year. On that long list, one of my goals was to complete a photo shoot at 5% body fat (Poliquin BioSignature™skinfold measurements) for my online business. The coach I was working with at the time helped me with planning the programing and diet to get me to the targeted goal. While I had the knowledge to get myself to the goal, I believe getting coached, being held accountable and having someone in your corner is a great aid to help you see things differently and teach you new things that you might not have previously considered.
Returning late January from an overseas holiday at 11.5% body fat with reduced muscle mass, was the beginning of the preparation. I began going through the motions, tracking calories, marco splits and adhering to the required set training. Whilst I was getting sufficient changes with my results, I had noticed that I was not 100% locked in with training focus and diet. I’d let a few things slip through with my diet, not hitting the required calories or getting unhealthy takeaway meals for convenience.
Looking back on it now, my initial lack of compliance and intensity was a simple mistake. I’d listed my goals correctly, how I was going to achieve them and why I wanted to achieve them but failed to implement a deadline. Not having a deadline left me in limbo with no drive to finish by a certain date. I remembered speaking to a fellow colleague and his suggestion was to book in and pay for the photo shoot ASAP. I promptly took the advice and booked it in with 10 weeks to prepare.
It was like magic! I was 100% accountable with every piece of food entering my mouth and my training intensity dramatically improved overnight. If I hadn’t set the date, giving myself 10 weeks, it might have taken 32 weeks at the rate I was going! This can be explained by Parkinson’s Law that states, “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” Knowing the deadline will put the necessary fire in your belly to increase your productivity and get results. Lesson learnt – always set deadlines when setting goals!
With successfully getting my goals in check, I found it relatively easy to follow through with all the requirements and imposed restrictions. When catching up with friends, I would tell them what I was doing. Weighing every meal to the gram, carb cycling, abstaining from alcohol, waking up at 5am for fasted cardio, training 2x per day etc. They would look at me with disbelief or think why I would even bother doing something like that.
There were times when it was hard and at stages I was certainly grumpy (my fiancé can attest!), working 14-hour days, finding time to train, preparing food etc. The easy option would have been quit this regime. Nevertheless, when you align goals to your values, you can always manage to find the fortitude to complete the set tasks. I have frequently seen people saying, “Yes I would like to lose weight, put on muscle, have more time to work out or (insert goal here).” But they continue with their existing habits or lifestyles that are not conducive to producing their desired results. People genuinely want to achieve their goal, but they are valuing something else ahead of that goal, whether it’s the Friday night beers or the episodes of Game of Thrones over eating well and being active. Getting a thorough understanding of what you value can be vitally important when it comes to setting your next set of goals or New Year’s resolutions.
I managed to get my body fat to 5.8% (skin fold measure), which was 0.8% from my goal. Although I didn’t meet the set target or make it through without making numerous mistakes, I did manage to learn a lot in the process and can now coach with empathy. The only failure in my eyes, is not having a shot or taking a blind swing without a why, how or a deadline, whatever your goal may be.
“You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great.”
Don’t let that voice inside your head dictate your terms, take action and make mistakes.
Before Photos: at 11.5% body fat (pay not attention to the cheese ball smile)
After photos at 5.8% body fat